Landlords Beware: Philadelphia Municipal Court Modifies Rule 109 Concerning Filing Eviction Complaints

If you are one of the unlucky yet typical landlords in Philadelphia who has endured the eviction process in Philadelphia Municipal Court, you know that it is often lengthy and encumbered with unpredictable outcomes. Seeking to correct the imbalance often felt by Philadelphia landlords, Philadelphia Municipal Court recently adopted an amendment to Rule 109 “Contents of Complaints”. While the amendment provides additional specificity to the filing process, landlords need to be intimately aware of the new requirements at the inception of each new tenancy to ensure future evictions are not hindered by failure to comply with new mandates.

Under the previous rule, Rule 109(c), when filing an eviction complaint, landlords were required to provide basic information such as parties involved, details of the landlord/tenant relationship, compliance with statutory notice provisions and explanation of the impetus for the eviction action. Furthermore, landlords were also required to attach a copy of their rental license, now known as the Housing Inspection License (“HIL”) issued by the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (“L&I”). Except in limited circumstances, a landlord was prohibited from commencing an eviction action unless and until it secured the requisite licensing. Even then, many landlords have been denied the ability to collect delinquent rent during any period of time it was not compliant with licensing requirements.

Under the amended rule, landlords must provide expanded information in the complaint, such as the subsidized or low income tax credit status of the tenant, compliance with Philadelphia Code requirements regarding Certificates of Rental Suitability (“CRS”) and the Lead Paint Disclosure Law. Aside from the written lease, Notice to Quit, and the HIL, landlords will now be required to attach to the original filing of the complaint a copy of the CRS that was provided to the tenant at the inception of the lease. This new requirement has potentially unfavorable implications for landlords given L&I does not retain copies of CRS, and it is the sole responsibility of the landlord to ensure the CRS is presented, acknowledged by the tenant, and retained for future reference. Additionally, landlords must attach a copy of each HIL in effect during the time the landlord is seeking past due rent, as well as the HIL in effect as of the time of the eviction filing. 

In consideration of these new rules, before executing a new lease, landlords should ensure their thorough compliance with both state and local rules concerning the landlord-tenant relationship. Furthermore, for any lease currently in effect, landlords should take necessary steps to immediately correct any non-compliant aspects of the existing relationship.

To discuss the impact of this new rule or any questions regarding your compliance with the landlord/tenant requirements in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, please contact Meredith Ferleger, Esquire at 215-575-7052.